Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur, today secured agreement from the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon MSP, to look into the need for additional freight capacity on ferry routes serving Orkney and Shetland.
Mr McArthur highlighted concerns that had been raised with him by Orkney’s livestock industry, which is in the midst of the busiest period of the year for shipping cattle and sheep to the Scottish mainland. Last week saw Serco Northlink lease in an additional freight vessel, Arrow, to help meet demand in Orkney as well as from Shetland’s key aquaculture and shellfish sectors.
In response, the First Minister accepted the need to look again at the growing freight needs of both communities and agreed to ask her Transport Minister, Paul Wheelhouse to look into proposals for expanding capacity.
Commenting after the exchange at First Minister’s Questions, Mr McArthur said:
“While a full blown crisis was averted on this occasion, no-one should be in any doubt about the scale of the risk for both the Orkney and Shetland economies. As Malcolm Scott put it to me earlier today, the potential consequences of not being able to ship cattle and sheep south could have been ‘disastrous’.
“The option of leasing in freight vessels on an ad hoc basis appears to be increasingly limited, while demand for freight capacity on these routes continues to grow. Having an additional vessel within the fleet would allow greater flexibility to meet the different demands in Orkney and Shetland, and could even provide a similar role on the west coast as and when needed. At the same time, it may even allow space to be freed up on the passenger services as well.
“I understand that proposals for how this could be achieved have already been developed. The First Minister has accepted the case for looking seriously at those proposals and I welcome the commitment she has given me today. Hopefully, this will lead to improvements that ensure our lifeline ferry services are able to meet the changing needs of the communities which rely so heavily upon them”.
Notes to editors: Link to video of the debate: https://www.scottishparliament.tv/meeting/members-business-scotlands-marine-energy-industry-has-potential-to-grow-september-20-2018